‘You will probably run out of water’ was one of the last things our landlord told us before bolting out the door. He quickly added that we had a tank on the roof with 4000 litres (hopefully) of water that was supposed to last us for 7, 8 or even 9 and 10 days – Arab water times. So, there we were, 10 Norwegians, (hopefully) 4000 litres of water, 3 bathrooms and a washing machine. Let the social experiment commence.
Do you know how much water you use every time you flush the toilet? We know, as we frantically started to google ‘water consumption’ – 6 to 8 litres. Wash your hands after? Another 1 to 2 litres down the drain. Why not brush your teeth while you’re at it, adding another 1 or so litre to the tally. A simple visit to the bathroom might not be as costless as you’d expect.
Being Norwegians, we’re all spoiled in terms of water, hence the original cluelessness regarding water consumption. However, we quickly decided on a few water saving behaviours. Firstly, if it’s yellow, let it mellow; secondly, only one or two short showers a week; and lastly, only doing laundry a few times a week. Our naïve minds thought this was going to be enough.
Four days in, we ran out of water. The taps went dry and toilets stopped filling. We quickly learned that the locals would typically have tanks and bottles of ‘spare’ water in case they run out, but this hadn’t been part of our original plan, so we had to buy water. Those 5-6 litres you need to flush the toilet are really put into perspective when you have to walk to the store, buy the water, bring it home and manually fill the toilet every time. We definitely take that simple ‘normal’ flush for granted, but we definitely shouldn’t.
It is important to emphasise that we could afford to buy water, something other people might not be able to do. The water also returned after ‘only’ 36 hours, making our time without water rather easy and manageable, as opposed to the reality many people face on a daily basis.